Archive for September 27th, 2011

September 27, 2011

Five easy mutations to make bird flu a lethal pandemic

This is pretty scary. It’s been a concern all along, of course, that such mutations could occur, but now it has been actually verified… in ferrets. One has to feel sorry for the ferrets…. And we think we have enough problems already. Just wait.

Five easy mutations to make bird flu a lethal pandemic – New Scientist

H5N1 bird flu can kill humans, but has not gone pandemic because it cannot spread easily among us. That might change: five mutations in just two genes have allowed the virus to spread between mammals in the lab. What’s more, the virus is just as lethal despite the mutations.

“The virus is transmitted as efficiently as seasonal flu,” says Ron Fouchier of the Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, who reported the work at a scientific meeting on flu last week in Malta.

September 27, 2011

Brain wiring continues

Well, that’s a relief! To suppose that brain development more or less stops at the end of adolescence implies all that happens afterwards is just adding data. Surely there’s more to things like prudence, levelheadedness, and understanding of others than just added data.

Brain wiring continues – University of Alberta

It has been a long-held belief in medical communities that the human brain stopped developing in adolescence. But now there is evidence when examining the development of wiring in some parts of the brain this is not in fact the case, thanks to medical research conducted in the Department of Biomedical Engineering by researcher Christian Beaulieu, an Alberta Innovates – Health Solutions scientist, and by his PhD student at the time, Catherine Lebel. Lebel recently moved to the United States to work at UCLA, where she is a post-doctoral fellow working with an expert in brain-imaging research.

“This is the first long-range study, using a type of imaging that looks at brain wiring, to show that in the white matter there are still structural changes happening during young adulthood,” says Lebel. “The white matter is the wiring of the brain; it connects different regions to facilitate cognitive abilities. So the connections are strengthening as we age in young adulthood.”

Further reading:

Longitudinal Development of Human Brain Wiring Continues from Childhood into Adulthood